New and Improved Casino Resorts Around the Nation

The latest news from casino properties around the country, and how they're betting big on meetings and events. 

Meetings and event groups gathering in gaming destinations have more opportunities than ever. Both the number of gaming cities and the facilities within them continue to expand. Read on to see what’s in store nationally. 

Las Vegas

Grand developments and a slew of updates are always on the docket in the nation’s gaming capital. Coming soon is the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, a transformation of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Renovations of the property are expected to begin in late summer or early fall this year. In the first quarter of 2020, the hotel is expected to complete the transformation, and reopen several months later as part of Hilton’s Curio Collection. With more than 1,500 rooms, it will be the largest Curio Collection member, as well as the first in Las Vegas. Among updates include:

  • More than 110,000 square feet of meeting and event space
  • A reimagined pool area 
  • New Commons Club dining venue 
  • New Shag Room -- a cocktail den

In Vegas, the revitalized Stratosphere is now the Strat Hotel, Casino and SkyPod.
In Vegas, the revitalized Stratosphere is now the Strat Hotel, Casino and SkyPod.

Award-Winning Gaming Properties
Every year, Northstar Meeting Group, parent of M&C, honors superior service as provided by suppliers to the meetings industry — hotels, conference centers, airlines, cruise lines, destination marketing organizations and more — with the Stella Awards. Among the 18 categories voted on by industry insiders for the 2018 awards, the following were chosen as Best Gaming Property in their respective regions:

• The Resorts Casino Hotel, Atlantic City (Gold)
Harrah’s Atlantic City Waterfront Conference Center (Silver)

• The MotorCity Casino Hotel, Detroit (Gold)

• The Venetian and The Palazzo Las Vegas (Gold)
• The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (Silver)
• The Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, Reno, Nev. (Bronze)
Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Reno (Finalist)
• The Tropicana Las Vegas – a DoubleTree by Hilton (Finalist)

International and U.S. Territories:
• The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Gold)

Voting starts for 2019 in May. Properties can still join in. Go here; submissions must be received no later than April 19. 

Another rebranding has just been unveiled, this for the iconic 2,427-room Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower. The property is being repositioned as the Strat Hotel, Casino and SkyPod. The new nomenclature comes courtesy of Golden Entertainment, which purchased the hotel in late 2017. Since midyear in 2018, the new owners have been revitalizing the resort in various ways, including:

  • Remodeling 311 of the guest rooms 
  • Rolling out a new Baccarat gaming pit 
  • Renovating the rotating Top of the World restaurant 
  • Adding 108 Eats by James Tree, a new restaurant on the Observation Deck

The indoor and outdoor decks on the 108th and 109th floors will be remodeled this spring and see the addition of 108 Drinks, to accompany the new Observation Deck eatery. A new restaurant, lounge, and a race and sportsbook area will debut this spring on the northwest corner of the casino at street level.

Meanwhile, progress continues on construction of Caesars Forum, the 550-square-foot conference facility set to open in 2020 across from Caesars Palace and alongside the Linq Promenade, just off the Center Strip. The first steel truss was set in late January for the $375 million project, the start to what will be more than a mile of trusses to be used in creating the conference center. 

When complete, Caesars Forum will be directly connected to 5,000 hotel rooms owned by Caesars Entertainment and within walking distance of more than 20,000. The facility will have two 110,000-square-foot world class ballrooms, as well as:

  • Two additional 40,000-square-foot ballrooms
  • Six boardrooms
  • 100 breakout rooms
  • A 100,000-square-foot outdoor space known as Forum Plaza 

The conference center will be able to accommodate more than 10,000 attendees.

International Market Centers, which owns the World Market Center, broke ground in late January on a new convention facility slated to open in 2020. The Expo at World Market Center will span 315,000 square feet with 194,785 square feet of exhibit space across two halls. The venue will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 booths. Construction of the $90 million center is expected to begin in earnest next month. 

MGM Resorts International has boosted its conference facilities by wrapping up the $130 million expansion of the MGM Grand Conference Center.



The project added about a quarter of a million square feet of meeting space, for a new total of 850,000 square feet. Additions to the space include a 5,500-square-foot outdoor courtyard, as well as 22,000 square feet of Stay Well Meetings space. The wellness-focused meeting rooms now comprise the second floor of the center and include features such as air-purification systems, aromatherapy capabilities, circadian lighting, menu options designed by nutritionists from the Cleveland Clinic and guided video-meditation exercises narrated by wellness guru Deepak Chopra. – Michael J. Shapiro


Last year’s $300 million expansion of the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula beefed up the property’s meetings profile with an additional 70,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, including a 40,000-square-foot event center, Pechanga Summit. The resort now offers nearly 275,000 square feet of meeting space and associated programs to support groups. A new health and wellness program, for instance, includes:

  • Boot camps 
  • Sunrise or sunset yoga 
  • Wellness consultations
  • Indoor cycling classes
  • Golf 
  • Obstacle courses

In California, Pechanga Resort & Casino’s new autonomous security robot monitors meeting rooms.

The resort also invested in its security infrastructure for groups. A new veteran and service-dog program, for example, means that U.S. veterans and first responders walk the grounds with their dogs, a six-legged mix of military experience and canine support wrapped up in each patrol. Pechanga intends to put about 10 of these patrols to work alongside its regular 300-member security team. The resort also is using cutting-edge autonomous security robots to monitor meetings.

About 20 minutes east of downtown San Diego, the former Hollywood Casino rebranded last May as Jamul Casino and celebrated its relaunch in August. The closest casino to San Diego, the venue opened the Jamul Poker Room last month. While there is no dedicated meeting space, the facility offers a live-music site just off the casino and seven restaurants. Owned and operated by the Jamul Indian Village, the venue is part of the Kumeyaay Nation, whose roots date back some 12,000 years.

Also in Southern California, in the San Bernardino area about an hour from Los Angeles, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians are expanding the San Manuel Casino. The project will add the venue’s first on-site luxury hotel, an event space, restaurants, retail and more. Plans call for the event space to open in 2020 and the hotel to debut sometime in 2021. – M.J.S.


In the picturesque Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania, the Mount Airy Casino Resort is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar expansion. To open in May, the project includes 100 more guest rooms and a 16,000-square-foot ballroom/events center. The new rooms, which will bring the hotel’s total to 288, will include nine suites. With the extra space, the resort now will be able to host seated dinners for as many as 750 people and events for up to 1,200 attendees. 

Mount Airy is seeking a presence on the other side of the state, as well, in the form of Mount Airy Pittsburgh, a casino development planned for Western Pennsylvania’s Beaver County. The venue could open late this year with 750 slot machines, 30 table games, a high-limit area and several dining options. Phase II calls for a:

  • Full-service resort hotel
  • Convention center 
  • Fine-dining restaurant 
  • Pool 
  • Spa 
  • Salon 

The new Event Center at Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino.

In Pittsburgh proper, the Rivers Casino has put its $50 million, 200-room hotel project on hold, but the property has been busy nonetheless, recently debuting the 25,000-square-foot Event Center on-site. The second-floor venue can host as many as 800 people for sit-down dinners or up to 2,000 for trade shows or conferences. In December, Rivers Sportsbook became the city’s first licensed sports-betting venue.

A year ago, Wind Creek Hospitality reached a $1.3 billion deal to acquire the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem from the Las Vegas Sands Corp. That deal is expected to close as soon as next month, when the facility’s name will become Wind Creek Bethlehem. Plans for upgrades include a new $90 million, 300-room hotel tower to complement the current 282-room tower. 

The new $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia was supposed to open in 2018 in the heart of the South Philadelphia Stadium District, but the opening date has been pushed to 2020.

The state’s Gaming Control Board is holding a hearing this month on Penn National’s proposed mini-casino in Eastern Pennsylvania’s Berks County. The Hollywood Casino Morgantown would be an 80,000-square-foot venue in Caernarvon Township with a full array of

  • Slot machines
  • Table games
  • A sports and race book
  • A signature restaurant
  • An entertainment lounge
  • A food court 

Penn is also planning a mini-casino in York County, the Hollywood Casino York.

The new $700 million Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia was supposed to open in 2018 in the heart of the South Philadelphia Stadium District, but the opening date has been pushed to 2020. Plans call for an upscale 200-plus-room boutique hotel, a casino, a nationally recognized restaurant and live entertainment venues. – M.J.S.

New Jersey

Six months after opening, the Ocean Resort Casino has a new owner, New York-based private investment firm Luxor Capital Group, which plans to spend an additional $70 million on the property. The resort currently has:

  • 1,399 guest rooms and suites
  • A 40,000-square-foot Exhale spa
  • Six swimming pools
  • 160,000 square feet of flexible indoor meeting and convention space 
  • 90,000 square feet of outdoor event space

The former Trump Taj Mahal has been transformed into the 2,000-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

The former Trump Taj Mahal has been transformed into the 2,000-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Decorated with the brand’s signature wealth of iconic rock art and memorabilia, the hip property includes a revamped casino with 2,200 slot machines and 120 table games; 150,000 square feet of meeting and event space; the Hard Rock Cafe, which relocated from its former site on the Boardwalk; and several new restaurants. The former Mark G. Etess Arena, now the Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena, can stage a general session for up to 7,000 people or a more than 300-booth trade show. 


Last year, the 942-room Resorts Casino Hotel completed the final phase of a $25 million guest-room renovation including a completely revamped Ocean Tower. The property has an 80,000 square-foot casino and 64,000 square feet of  meeting space.

In other renovation news, Caesars Entertainment is pouring $56 million into a renovation of the Harbour Tower at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City Hotel & Casino. Upgrades to the tower’s 507 rooms and suites include a refreshed design, new high-speed Internet access  and charging stations, and 55-inch LED television sets. The Harbour Tower will be renamed the Coastal Tower once the renovation is complete at midyear. 

The Cabana Five Bar & Pool Deck at Tropicana Atlantic City

The Tropicana Atlantic City has reopened the Sea Spa, another step in revitalizing the assets that were added to the resort when it acquired the 330-room Chelsea Hotel directly across the street on Morris Avenue, in 2017. The 10,000-square-foot spa has eight private treatment rooms and a coed solarium featuring a Jacuzzi, a steam room and a sauna as well as a heated outdoor pool. Total room count at the Tropicana is just under 2,400, and the combined property has a total of 120,000 square feet of meeting space. Also, last year, a rooftop pool with a full-service bar, the Cabana Five, debuted, as did Escape AC, an escape-room experience and popular team-building activity. – Andrea Doyle


Last summer, the Live! Casino & Hotel at Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover opened Live!, a luxury 310-room hotel, spa and event center with 40,000 square feet of customizable meeting space. The Live! Casino & Hotel has become a major attraction in the region with:

  • 4,000 slot machines
  • 195 table games
  • 84 dealer-assist electronic table games
  • High-limit slots and tables rooms
  • The state’s only outdoor gaming area

Italian newcomer: Osteria Costa at MGM National Harbor in Maryland

The Live! expansion comes a year and a half after the $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor opened in the state’s D.C. suburbs. That property recently opened a new Italian restaurant, Osteria Costa, joining Fish by famed Spanish-American chef José Andrés and Voltaggio Brothers Steak House, among others. The resort includes the 3,000-seat Theater at MGM National Harbor, a 27,000-square-foot spa, 50,000 square feet of meeting space and its own 125,000-square-foot casino. – A.D.


Last September, the $960 million MGM Springfield complex opened as Massachusetts’ first gaming resort. Along with a 252-room hotel, a spa, a movie theater and shops, the property’s 125,000-square-foot casino floor has 2,550 slot machines, 120 gaming tables, a poker room and a high-limit VIP gaming lounge. For F&B, options include: 

  • An “Italian coastal concept,” Cal Mare by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Mina and chef Adam Sobel 
  • Fine steaks and seafood at the Chandler Steakhouse with Hell’s Kitchen winner Meghan Gill serving as executive chef 
  • MGM’s signature TAP Sports Bar 
  • South End Market, a lively modern food hall featuring six casual eateries.

MGM Springfield’s 34,000 square feet of meeting space flows through various  ballrooms, breakout rooms and boardrooms adjacent to a 6,200-square-foot outdoor terrace. For indoor/outdoor space with a historical twist, planners can host events in the resort’s castle-like Armory, which was built in 1895 and restored to its original state by MGM Resorts’ design team.

To open in June in Everett, just outside of Boston, is the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor, which will consist of a 27-story hotel tower with 671 guest rooms, a 210,000-square-foot casino and the Encore Harborwalk, a year-round waterfront park where the public can meander along shoreline paths and manicured gardens. An expansive lawn will be set aside for events. – A.D.


In Connecticut, Foxwoods Resort Casino added a Topgolf Swing Suite to its lineup.

At Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, a new Topgolf Swing Suite opened in the Fox Tower Casino this past February. The venue features a variety of simulation games utilizing a high-tech screen, including golf and baseball. Overall, the massive gaming property has four hotels with:

  • More than 2,230 guest rooms
  • 340,000 square feet of gaming space 
  • seven casinos 
  • 35 dining options 
  • Two spas 
  • Two theaters 
  • Six nightclubs 
  • A bowling facility 
  • Two golf courses 
  • More than 150,000 square feet of flexible meeting and convention space 

A new 23,000-square-foot interactive arcade, bar and restaurant called Game On! is scheduled to open midyear at the 1,600-room Mohegan Sun in Uncasville. Features will include bowling, ping-pong, karaoke, craft beer and private event space. The venue is on the lower level of the property’s new $80 million Earth Expo & Convention Center, which comprises 250,000 square feet of space including the 125,000-square-foot, column-free Earth Expo Center and 20,000-square-foot Earth Ballroom, both of which feature ample prefunction space right outside their doors. – A.D.

New York

Yonkers Raceway at Empire City Casino is now owned by MGM Resorts.

Resorts World Catskills Casino Resort, a $1.2 billion casino, hotel and entertainment complex, opened last February on the site of the old Concord Resort Hotel in Monticello, in Upstate New York. The property features a:

  • 332-suite hotel 
  • 100,000-square-foot casino with 150 live table games, 2,150 slot machines, a poker room and private gaming salons 
  • Spa 
  • Two fitness centers 
  • The 2,500-seat RW Epicenter theater 

A second hotel recently opened on the site, the 101-room Alder at Resorts World Catskills, which has its own full-service spa, seven restaurants, New York’s first Topgolf Swing Suite and Dos Gatos, a cantina-style Mexican eatery. This year, the Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark and a Rees Jones-redesigned golf course will debut at the complex. 

MGM Resorts has finalized a deal to purchase Empire City Casino, which includes the storied Yonkers Raceway, for $850 million. Just 15 miles from Times Square in Manhattan, the casino has 5,300 slots and other electronic games, while the racetrack, which opened in 1899, features year-round harness racing, international simulcasting, live entertainment and 11,606 square feet of meeting space. – A.D.


In the town of Tulalip, about 30 minutes north of Seattle, the 30,000 square feet of meeting space at the 370-room Tulalip Resort Casino was renovated last spring. The property’s event facilities include a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, a 4,800-square-foot junior ballroom and 6,000 square feet of pre- and postfunction space.

Last June, the resort welcomed a new eatery, Tula Bene Pastaria + Chophouse, serving Italian-inspired dishes family-style, as well as some top cuts for the steak-lovers in the group. An additional café, Killer Coffee, has debuted on the casino floor. Among other amenities are:

  • An indoor pool
  • The T Spa with 16 treatment rooms
  • Eight restaurants

Construction continues on a new 150-room hotel that is being added to the resort’s ancillary casino space about a mile south of the main facility. The gaming area is being redone to be in harmony with the new property, which is scheduled to debut in January 2020 with about 10,000 square feet of additional meeting space.  – Sarah J.F. Braley


Greektown Casino-Hotel owner Jack Entertainment has agreed to sell the property to Penn National Gaming and Vici Properties for $1 billion.

In Detroit, Greektown Casino-Hotel owner Jack Entertainment has agreed to sell the property to Penn National Gaming and Vici Properties for $1 billion. The deal will see Penn National acquire the operating assets while Vici gets the land and real estate. Jack Entertainment purchased the then-troubled casino five and a half years ago and invested hundreds of millions of dollars into redesigning and remodeling the property, readying Greektown for this next iteration. The deal is expected to close sometime later this year.

In Battle Creek, the 243-room Firekeepers Casino Hotel is expected to add a second hotel tower to meet demand. Additional rooms and meeting space will bring in more visitors and groups, according to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi tribe, which owns the property. The current hotel has more than 20,000 square feet of meeting and event space. – M.J.S.


Last spring, Eldorado Resorts rebranded its three adjacent downtown properties — Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus Reno — as one unified mega-resort known as The Row. Eldorado acquired Silver Legacy and Circus Circus from MGM Resorts in 2015. Taken as a whole, The Row is now a resort of Vegas proportions: 4,100 hotel rooms, 25 restaurants, 22 bars, 11 nightclubs and four entertainment venues. The resorts within maintain their original names, and each offers a distinct flavor and experience.

Taken as a whole, The Row is now a resort of Vegas proportions: 4,100 hotel rooms, 25 restaurants, 22 bars, 11 nightclubs and four entertainment venues.

All three properties have been unveiling upgrades regularly, such as the new Spa at Silver Legacy. The 21,000-square-foot spa is the result of $100 million in renovations over the past two years. A redesign now allows natural light to flow throughout the facility, which includes:

  • Three couples treatment rooms
  • Four individual treatment rooms
  • Five facial treatment rooms
  • Three relaxation lounges
  • A salt-inhalation chamber
  • Two private hospitality suites
  • Seven hydrotherapy tubs
  • Two steam rooms
  • Two saunas

The 8,000-square-foot deck area welcomes with an al fresco natatorium — a rejuvenating pool with waterfall and fire features, hot tubs, and shaded seating and sunbathing lounges.

The Jesse Hotel & Bar, a new six-suite boutique property, will open this spring in Reno’s Brewery District. The intimate hotel is in a renovated historic building with exposed brick walls, original hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows in every room. In addition to a bar and patio lounge, a taco shop with a mezcal bar is scheduled to open this summer. 

In nearby Sparks, Marnell Gaming is developing an 8,500-seat amphitheater where the Bourbon Square building once stood. Marnell, which owns the Nugget Casino Resort, has dubbed the venue the Nugget Event Center. Country music star Toby Keith will play the inaugural event on June 15 when the facility opens this summer. – M.J.S.


MGM Resorts has purchased the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, a gaming, dining and entertainment facility in Northfield, about 17 miles southeast of downtown Cleveland. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2019, at which point MGM will rebrand the property. The new owners have named former MGM Grand Detroit exec Chris Kelley as the future president and COO of the location, to take effect when the acquisition of MGM’s first Ohio venture is finalized. – M.J.S.